I suppose that it would be possible to think of me as a Dutch-American. My ancestry is mixed European, really, with Dutch the largest component. My mother, who was in a great position to know, always told me that I was half-Dutch, half-Irish, half-English and half-assed. See, I told you that she ought to know. ;o) But I don’t think of myself as Dutch-American. Not even American-Dutch. I just think of myself as being American.
I understand that I am probably pretty well assimilated by now. It’s been a couple of hundred years, after all. I’ve gotten way past the wooden-shoe stage. I’m just a plain American. It occurs to me that a lot of the people that we hang those clumsy sorts of descriptors on feel exactly the same way. It is not necessary to hang onto that previous country or continent forever. Hell, all of us are from someplace else except the native peoples that we so rudely and crudely devastated when we first got here.
I think maybe Jesse Jackson is to blame, or at least I have heard that he may be. Although I have thought these thoughts for years, I had never written about them. Then I came across an article at bentsense.com and decided that I probably should. Please take a look at Jerry’s take on this issue there, including the Jesse Jackson reference. Jerry makes sense.
Maybe it is logical to refer to a person in some manner by her foreign country of birth for a while when she first gets here. Or perhaps not. But after decades, or generations, or centuries, it makes no sense at all to do so. You don’t have to give up your identification with your ancestral culture, by any means. Those ancestral differences adds some spice to life in the United States and provide us with a variety that represents almost all of the countries of the world.
But, once you’re here, and have lived here for a while, you become just an American, in terms of country of reference. That’s the passport you are going to get if you need one, the place where you’re paying taxes, and the place where you vote. There is not much of a need to identify you with a place you probably have never been. I’ve been to Holland a couple of times and they all knew I was an American.
Almost none of the “African-Americans” in this country have every been to Africa. Almost none of the “Italian-Americans” have ever been to Italy. And so it goes, down through the list. They are all simply Americans that may have a predilection for a certain kind of food, or literature, or music, or drinks, or holidays because those things are a part of their heritage and they like them. That is not only great by me, but I am absolutely thrilled that most of us are willing to share those things. It keeps me from getting bored, and that’s a fact.
Celebrate your heritage if you wish or don’t if you don’t wish. That’s up to you. But once you have decided to stay here, or at least have not yet decided to leave here, you are an American. I know, sometimes our political leadership makes us want to hide that fact, but political leadership eventually changes. The people of the world will like us again in ten year’s time. In the interim, celebrate just being who, and where, you are.
Great sentiments! I especially like the bit about “Italian-Americans” – the whole idea of culture as opposed to citizenship. In fact, it gives me an idea for a follow-up post… I’ll let you know when I get to write it.
I’m sure that we haven’t covered all the bases on this topic yet. Thanks for spurring me to write this one. I’ll look forward to your next post on this subject!